The Nuggets lose 121-106 against the New Orleans Pelicans in embarrassing fashion

The Denver Nuggets were demolished on Sunday afternoon by the New Orleans Pelicans, losing 121-106.

The Pelicans outscored the Nuggets 62-46 in the second half and rode a wave of “Jo-Se! Yo-See Jo-See Jo-See!” chanted sophomore point guard Jose Alvarado, who scored a career-high 38 points. Zion Williamson added 25 points of his own as the Pelicans shot 11-of-26 from three-point range as a team (42.3%). The Nuggets shot 8 of 31 from three (25.8%) and committed 19 turnovers en route to another embarrassing loss. New Orleans may be good, but the Nuggets should be good too. Nikola Jokić played well, but the rest of the team barely showed up.

Here are the key takeaways from Sunday’s matinee game in New Orleans:

Nikola Jokić brought the energy

There was not much work around Jokić on Sunday afternoon in both the starting line-up and the bench. On a Sunday afternoon, the energy can often be lacking, and it was.

However, Jokić brought the intensity in the minutes and kept Denver in it much longer than they deserved. Jokić scored 32 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and dished out 9 assists, shooting 13 of 16 from the field and 12 of 15 on two-pointers. He was able to get where he wanted and gave the Nuggets an early lead with solid play on both ends of the floor.

Things spiraled when Jokić left the floor after his first quarter. The Nuggets led 30-19 when Jokić left with 2:03 left in the quarter. When Jokić returned at the 9:38 mark of the second quarter, just five minutes later, the Nuggets trailed 38-36. It is difficult to muster up much energy in that situation to stem the tide. The Nuggets did it to end the first half. To begin the third quarter, Jokić also made some plays. Unfortunately, he slowed down throughout the third and fourth quarters and struggled to respond to incessant Pelicans slashers. It’s hardly his fault, but Jokić scored just two points after nine minutes in the third quarter.

The Nuggets bench is still disastrous

The Nuggets went with a nine-man rotation first, rotating Bruce Brown with a second unit that featured Bones Hyland, Davon Reed, Vlatko Čančar and DeAndre Jordan. That unit was outscored by seven points in two minutes to end the first quarter, and after some poor defensive plays, Bones was replaced by Ish Smith early in the second quarter and never saw the floor again.

All told, the Nuggets bench was doubled up by Jose Alvarado in scoring on Sunday afternoon. Alvarado scored 38 points, putting together a career high at the expense of Denver’s defense. The Nuggets scored just 18 points off the bench, including some late garbage time. Ish led the way with eight points, but added four turnovers. Vlatko Čančar had a clean sheet and made some terrible defensive plays. DeAndre Jordan had five points. Davon Reed made a three-pointer. Jack White scored the first points of his career right at the end. That was it. Those were all the points. Overall, the Pelicans bench outscored the Nuggets bench 62-18, which underscored how outmatched the Nuggets reserves were when the starters weren’t as dominant as they usually are.

Without Bones out there to bolster the scoring, the Nuggets must have a strong defensive unit. Instead of adding Christian Braun and Zeke Nnaji to the mix to try to minimize those scoring numbers, the Nuggets went with Reed and Jordan. Not surprisingly, the Nuggets bench struggled on both ends without any of the final three first-round picks in the lineup.

Things are getting angsty on the Nuggets sideline

Jeff Green picked up a technical foul from the bench while arguing a call. Michael Malone was sent off for some very choice words directed at an official after the outcome of the game was already known. There were many looks of disbelief, frustration and some general disappointment coming from Denver’s sideline of players and coaches in today’s game.

Things are not going well. The Nuggets slept their way to two easy wins over a hapless Houston Rockets team. Their energy was poor both Friday night and today in two losses to +.500 teams that know what they are doing. It’s clear Denver isn’t handling these moments well so far. There is confusion around the game plan and some seriously disappointing execution on both ends of the floor. Most of the problems are on the defensive side, though, and that’s a problem, given that Denver has directed many of its lineups to be more defensively oriented.

The Nuggets will return to the Ball Arena with a 14-9 record and are about to face Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks again. Expect some changes to the rotation before then, along with some changes to the defensive game plan that has failed so badly this season.

Final rotations

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